The Role of Repeated Exposure to Multimodal Input in Incidental Acquisition of Foreign Language Vocabulary

Marie Josée Bisson*, Walter J.B. van Heuven, Kathy Conklin, Richard J. Tunney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior research has reported incidental vocabulary acquisition with complete beginners in a foreign language (FL), within 8 exposures to auditory and written FL word forms presented with a picture depicting their meaning. However, important questions remain about whether acquisition occurs with fewer exposures to FL words in a multimodal situation and whether there is a repeated exposure effect. Here we report a study where the number of exposures to FL words in an incidental learning phase varied between 2, 4, 6, and 8 exposures. Following the incidental learning phase, participants completed an explicit learning task where they learned to recognize written translation equivalents of auditory FL word forms, half of which had occurred in the incidental learning phase. The results showed that participants performed better on the words they had previously been exposed to, and that this incidental learning effect occurred from as little as 2 exposures to the multimodal stimuli. In addition, repeated exposure to the stimuli was found to have a larger impact on learning during the first few exposures and decrease thereafter, suggesting that the effects of repeated exposure on vocabulary acquisition are not necessarily constant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)855-877
Number of pages23
JournalLanguage Learning
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

© 2014 The Authors Language Learning published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Language Learning Research Club, University of Michigan

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Foreign language vocabulary acquisition
  • Frequency effects
  • Incidental learning
  • Multimodality
  • Repeated exposures


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